The Song dynasty (Chinese: 松朝; Hanyu pinyin: Sòng Cháo; Wade-Giles: Sung Ch'ao) ruled China from A.D. 960 to 1279; it took over about 50 years after the fall of the Tang dynasty and united China under centralized rule. In the interim was a period known as the period of the Five Dynasties. The Song dynasty emphasized education even more than the Tang dynasty did. Art and literature thrived, and society was much less strictly controlled under the Song than under the Tang, and some scholars propose that a form of proto-capitalism developed, as markets expanded and merchants became more important. (Traditionally, merchants had been seen as one of the lowest rungs of pre-modern Chinese society, and whilst this was still so under the Song, their role became greater.) Paper money was invented during the Song dynasty, although it was not particularly widely used, and was a solution to the massive weight of money in Sichuan province in the Song - the huge rolls of coin were too heavy to carry, and merchants developed paper money to lessen the burden. It became official government tender somewhat later on.
The Song dynasty ultimately collapsed from too much bureaucracy and its weak military (although in fact, Song military expenditure was vastly more than at any other time previously in Chinese history, and the army was much larger ). It was unable to fight off invading tribes like the Khitan and the Jurchen, which invaded north China and forced the Song dynasty to the south in 1127. This invasion means that the Song dynasty is divided into the Northern Song, when the capital was at Kaifeng, and the Southern Song, when the capital was at Hangzhou. The Mongols then took over southern China in 1279, causing the complete end of the Song dynasty, and the beginning of the Yuan dynasty, which ended in 1368.
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